Our Work Outside: NPHM's Camille Acker on Chicago Artist's Month

"Our Work Outside" is an occasional series for NPHM staff to share a little bit of what they do outside of their immediate duties which informs the Museum's work.

October is that time right before Chicagoans retreat to their homes and ready themselves for winter. The weather, still filled with the lingering warmth of summer, can encourage exploration, but often that exploration takes us only as far as our familiarity, the sides of town and neighborhoods we know.
 
But every October, the city of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events presents Chicago Artists Month, a chance for creatives across the city to share their work with the public. Over the course of five weeks and with more than 300 events, people across the city can discover new neighborhoods, new forms or art, and new artists doing work in their city. This year's theme, Crossing Borders, allowed artists to imagine ways audiences might seek out more of what Chicago has to offer.
           
As a part of my work with a diverse group of Chicago writers called VONA Chicago, we looked for ways to defy the borders that others have made for us and we make for ourselves.
 
On October 5th, people came out to Humboldt Park for a Sunday afternoon of readings of multi-genre writing and listening to multi-genre music while they mapped their Chicago. Where we live and work are only part of what makes up our Chicago. Our city is also our favorite beach, our favorite bookstore, and the place that has the sandwich we love. For some, there is real danger in crossing a border--a block that is unwelcoming or a neighborhood that is struggling--and for others it's only the fear of the unknown that stops them.
 
But if we can find ways to move past our borders, we begin to find all kinds of places where we can actually meet. Those intersections are vital to building community, so that in the Little Italy neighborhood of the Jane Addams Homes, the border between an Italian neighborhood, a university, and a public housing resident community can blur beyond recognition.

by Camille Acker, Programs and Development Associate of the NPHM